William Helmreich, Sociologist Known For Walking Every Block Of New York City, Dies William Helmreich, a sociologist best known for his walking tours of New York City, died from COVID-19 on Saturday at the age of 74. Helmreich walked every block of the city's five boroughs.
NPR logo

William Helmreich, Sociologist Known For Walking Every Block Of New York City, Dies

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/824730528/824730529" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
William Helmreich, Sociologist Known For Walking Every Block Of New York City, Dies

William Helmreich, Sociologist Known For Walking Every Block Of New York City, Dies

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/824730528/824730529" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Hundreds of New Yorkers have died from the coronavirus, including a man who relished walking his hometown streets and talking to its inhabitants.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAM HELMREICH: You know what I did? I walked every block in New York City.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

That is William Helmreich, a sociology professor at the City College of New York. Over the course of four years, Helmreich logged 6,163 miles. He told his local PBS station just last month how.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HELMREICH: You walk it like you walk a mountain, one step at a time. You do 30 miles a week, 120 miles a month, 1,500 miles a year. Four times 15 is 6,000, and you're there.

CHANG: He wrote about the experience in his 2013 book "The New York Nobody Knows." But he kept walking.

KELLY: In 2015, Joshua Rothman of The New Yorker joined Helmreich for walks around the Bronx. Rothman wrote three things were immediately clear. He loved New York. He loved people, and the people of New York loved him.

CHANG: In a video for The New Yorker, Helmreich describes the city as the greatest outdoor museum.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HELMREICH: People here come from more than 150 lands. And the great thing is that New Yorkers feel like they're part of a small town, but they're also part of an incredibly big city.

CHANG: He also kept writing, most recently creating walking guides for each borough.

KELLY: Yeah, he wanted New Yorkers to get out and discover their neighborhoods just like he did when he was a kid with his own dad.

William Helmreich - he died Saturday. He was 74.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOWERCASE NOISES' "THE HUNGRY YEARS")

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.